His name was Mike. We grew up down the street from one another. Of course, where I grew up, surrounded by corn fields and soy beans, “down the street” meant a good two to three miles.
Mike and I were close. We camped out together, spent the night at each other’s houses, went on family trips and we definitely got into our fair share of trouble together. There was the time he stepped in to fight this huge guy that wanted to rip my head off for some wise-ass comment I may have made. Mike ended up breaking his hand on that guy’s head.
Another time I was in a fight and he came out of nowhere to jump in and fight beside me. He ended up suspended. I, however, saw the principal coming and tried to get Mike out of there, but it was too late and, to the principal, it looked like I was actually trying to break up the fight and Mike (being Mike) would never sell me out.
He was amazing at mechanical stuff and growing up he would fix my bike and then, later, my car and I, in return, would write most of his book reports. I did talk him into reading “The Lord of the Flies,” and he liked it so much we took his first used car to go see the movie together when we were 16. I still wrote his report. He liked to race cars and play soccer, and I liked to sing and dance and play basketball.
There was no one else I would have rather gone to our senior prom with than Mike, and we actually did go to prom together — just not as dates.
Two guys going to prom together in my small town was unheard of. I never even considered it an option. No one did. Instead, he went with his girlfriend Stacy, who was also a good friend of mine. In fact, I had set them up. I went with my beautiful and fun friend Andrea, and we are still good friends to this day. We did all the stupid crazy things young teens do at and after prom — including the obligatory sneaking away to drink Strawberry Hill Boone's Farm.
Mike was in love with Stacy. I was in love with Mike. Not an unfamiliar story for us unrequited queers.
Mike would soon head off to Ferris State and I’d head to Northern Michigan. We talked often, and I did my best to help him through his breakup with Stacy in those first few months of college. When Thanksgiving break came around, we were excited to see each other for the first time since heading off to college. I had finally worked up enough courage to tell him that I liked boys. But, driving too fast in the rain, Mike would lose control of his new car and crash head-on into a concrete embankment.
Instead of coming out, I would be a pallbearer that week.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Mike lately as Affirmations plans our first ever adult prom. I wasn’t out back then in high school and the idea of asking him — or any boy —to prom was impossible. Still, I wish I had. I’m sure many of us in the queer community wish we could have asked the person we really wanted.
I’m not naïve. Mike didn’t know I was gay and secretly thought I was dating his younger sister, though I assure you we were not and only had a mutual love for “Designing Women.” If I had asked Mike to prom, he would have thought I lost my mind. Times were different.
Affirmations’ Prom ReDeux on June 24 is a chance for us to bring who we love. Or to bring that same-sex individual you’re newly dating. Or maybe it will be a first-time date with that certain queer someone you’ve been meaning to ask out for a while.
In any case, the punch bowl will be spiked, and the DJ will be cheesy and fun! I’m looking forward to seeing you there.
I’ll bring the Strawberry Hill Boone's!